Mexican trap artist El Alemán a.k.a. Erick Raúl Alemán Ramírez says that regardless of whether they’re carrying more or less than the legal possession limit of five grams, the best way for Mexican cannabis users to protect their rights if they’re pulled over by police is by filming their stash. That way, the cops can’t plant more drugs on them.
“You have to understand, the police are like narcotraficantes or organized crime, only in uniform,” Alemán tells Remezcla in an interview, days after being extorted and robbed when cops found him and his friends with a small amount of marijuana. “That’s how shameless it is.”
Ironically, the trapero’s week began in cannabis celebration. On 4/20/20, Alemán dropped the follow-up to his 2019 album Humo en la Trampa. Part two is a smoky LP in which the Los Cabos emcee and his fellow traperos from Homegrown Entertainment flirt by talking about the cannabis arsenal they have at home (as on track “Chingo de Wax”) and explore the outer limits of THC tolerance, a topic broached on “La Pálida.” Surely a considerable percentage of the country’s stoners had Humo en la Trampa 2’s title track on repeat for its release day, a funky crew moment with that also featured Yoga Fire, Fntxy, Dee and Muelas de Gallo.
But if Alemán celebrated the highs of Mexican stoner culture on 4/20, the next evening he was mired in its lows.
On April 22 around 2 a.m., driving back to his house from the Homegrown studio, Alemán and his friends passed by a police traffic stop. The police pulled them over and found five grams in Alemán’s friend’s grinder. Five grams is the amount you are legally allowed to have in your possession in Mexico where (at least on paper) small amounts of all recreational drugs were decriminalized back in 2009.
After finding the grinder in Alemán’s friend’s pants pocket, police separated Alemán and his crew from his Porsche Cayenne. The cops originally asked for a mordida of 25 thousand Mexican pesos (approximately one thousand US dollars) to let them go free, but Alemán was able to bargain them down to ten thousand (approximately $400 USD, still an astronomical sum for a cannabis-related police bribe). After they got someone to bring the money for the cops and the officers left, Alemán discovered his passport and other possessions had been strewn across his backseat. His Versace shades and Gucci money belt were nowhere to be found. He drove back to the traffic stop and confronted the officers, only to be once again thrown back into the back of a cop car and threatened being given back his wallet and ID—but not his glasses, money, or money belt.
“It was literally like an express kidnapping,” Alemán continues. “I mean, I know the rules of the street, but I felt like I was being assaulted. I was like, ‘What is happening?’”
That night, the rapper got home and started posting on Instagram about what had happened. It wasn’t that anything extraordinary or newsworthy had taken place. To the contrary, Alemán was sick of what Mexican marijuana users have to deal with on a regular basis.
This year, Mexican cannabis prohibition turned 100 years old. Many thought it wouldn’t make it this far. Regulating cannabis, many thought, would diminish violence by removing one of the powerful drug cartels’ revenue streams. After advocates spent years battling their way through the appeals system for their rights to consume and cultivate, the Mexican Supreme Court finally declared both actions constitutional rights for the entire population in 2018.
But in the Mexican legal system, Supreme Court rulings don’t automatically change the laws. And so, cannabis consumers have been left waiting for legislators to enact recreational cannabis regulations. The process is dragging. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador a.k.a. AMLO has revealed some conservative leanings since taking office, even blaming drug consumption for the country’s rocketing murder rates this spring. The Senate, controlled by the president’s Morena Party, recently missed the second deadline it had been given by the Supreme Court to pass laws around cultivation and consumption.
Meanwhile, cops use cannabis prohibition as a source of personal funding.
“This situation is very common,” says Jasiel Espinosa, president and co-founder of Mexico City’s Club Cannábico Xochipilli. “It’s like the police’s daily bread.”
Xochipilli was started in 2015 to defend Mexican cannabis users, and among other benefits for its hundreds of members, specializes in applying for their legal permission to practice their constitutional cannabic rights, a process referred to in Mexico as an amparo.
But cops are dangerous even for marijuana consumers with official recognition from the government to use and grow. Earlier this year, Espinosa and Xochipilli member Adán Maciel were stopped while driving their car in a northern Mexico City neighborhood. Espinosa was forced to pay a bribe for his freedom, while Maciel was sent to jail overnight.
“Every day people are being extorted, having their rights violated, being physically beaten, psychologically terrorized, just for having a little marijuana cigarette on them,” says Espinosa.
Xochipilli provides members with an attorney hotline so that if they’re picked up, individuals can get a knowledgeable lawyer directly on the phone with police officers, and hopefully escape having their rights violated. Espinosa is looking for ways to fund a version of the hotline that is open to the public.
But he is the first to admit that not even having legal assistance on this line is enough to protect Mexicans from abusive law enforcement.
“The truth is there’s not a lot you can do [if the cops catch you with marijuana on your person] because the police are archaic, violent cavemen,” Espinosa says. “When chilangos know their rights, the police see that as a reason to criminalize them. They see it as a loss to their own personal wealth, like that citizen is robbing them.”
“I’m done playing,” says Alemán. “I learned from this experience.” He advises fans who find themselves in the same situation to pull out their phone to record the true amount of cannabis you have in your possession, so that cops can’t later plant more on you to facilitate a harsher charge.
“How can it be that they’re punishing me for having five grams of weed, and you can walk through Amsterdam and see people having a cup of coffee and smoking a joint on the sidewalk no problem?” Alemán demands.
Later that afternoon after the interview, he got on IG Live to rant further about the situation, puffing furiously on a joint and charging around the Homegrown studio while expressing his displeasure.
“F*ck the feds!” he exclaims. “Ese puerco, que ch*nga su p*ta madre.”
A dispirited fan sums up the situation in Alemán’s comment stream; “No respetan al humo en la trampa.”